02/22/2003 1:00AM

Xtra Heat wins 25th stakes


Xtra Heat powered to her 25th added-money victory, winning the Grade II, $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap for the second consecutive year Saturday at Laurel Park in Maryland.

Ridden by Rick Wilson, Xtra Heat ran the seven furlongs in 1:24.76 through a thick fog and over a sloppy track to defeat runner-up Carson Hollow by 1 3/4 lengths and pay $4 to win. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Spelling in third.

Carrying top weight of 125 pounds, six more than second-choice Carson Hollow, Xtra Heat prompted the pace outside of Carson Hollow on the backstretch, surged to the front at the three-furlong marker, and widened her lead in the stretch.

"She is game and she proved how good she is today," said her trainer, John Salzman. "That other filly had never been outrun except for the day she was sick at the Breeders' Cup. You look at her, she's truly amazing."

It was only Xtra Heat's third start on wet tracks. Previously, she won the Grade 2 Genuine Risk at Belmont last May on a "good" track and ran second in the Garland of Roses at Aqueduct in the mud in December.

"I didn't have any trouble around the track," Wilson said. "Once we got in front I knew we were a winner."

Carson Hollow had only one previous off-track start, a win in an allowance race at Aqueduct.

"With her first stride her hind legs pushed through the track and we were standing in the same spot," said Kent Desormeaux, who rode Carson Hollow. "But her second and third strides moved us right to the lead."

The first 4,000 fans through the turnstiles Saturday received free Xtra Heat bobbleheads.

A race earlier, My Cousin Matt splashed to a three-length victory over Peeping Tom in the $200,000, Grade 2 General George Handicap for 3-year-olds and up.

A 4-year-old trained by Scott Lake and owned by Richard Englander, My Cousin Matt, was making only his second start in a graded stakes. In his other graded-stakes try, the Grade 1 Malibu at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, he ran a non-threatening sixth.

"Rick Englander thinks he's the best sprinter in the country," Lake said. "I think he has a little to prove yet but this moves him in the right direction."

My Cousin Matt ran the seven furlongs in the slop in 1:22.12 and paid $10.